As COVID-19 cases rise, Yale tightens restrictions on gatherings, travel; increases testing for some staff

Amanda Blanco, Hartford Courant
·3 min read

Yale University in New Haven announced Friday it is tightening restrictions around gatherings and travel for all school community members in an effort to mitigate rising COVID-19 case numbers.

“Consistent with local and national trends, we are also experiencing increased levels of infection on our campus among students, faculty and staff,” Provost Scott Strobel and Vice Provost for Health Affairs and Academic Integrity Stephanie Spangler, who also serves as Yale’s COVID-19 coordinator, wrote in a letter to the Yale community.

As of Friday afternoon, Yale’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 28 cases among students and 14 cases among faculty and staff from Oct. 29 through Nov. 4. Any results from Nov. 5-6 were not yet posted. Since August, the university has reported a total of 99 cases among students and 52 cases among faculty and staff.

The sources of viral spread among the Yale community are “frequently associated with social gatherings, often with extended family or friends, where facemasks are removed; with dining indoors at a restaurant; or during travel to campus from out-of-the-area locations,” the administrators said.

For the foreseeable future, all Yale community members are asked to avoid in-person dining in restaurants, and gatherings that involve serving food or drinks where masks are removed are strongly discouraged.

In accordance with state guidelines, gatherings larger than 10 people in a private residence are prohibited. All on-campus events, and all gatherings of more than 10 people, must be approved by the school.

“In no case may [gatherings] exceed 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors," the university said.

Travel outside of the New Haven region is also discouraged for all community members, and no student may travel outside of Connecticut for the remaining two weeks of the residential semester. In case of an out-of-state emergency, students must obtain preapproval for travel from their school’s health and safety leader.

Full-time faculty who live outside Connecticut “must not commute to campus unless there is a very compelling reason to do so," administrators wrote. “This applies to travel from any state, not just those affected by the Connecticut travel advisory. Faculty who reside outside the state and who are not full-time and teach only on an episodic basis must teach remotely.”

All staff who can work remotely are required to do so, and COVID-19 testing frequency for certain high-contact staff will increase to twice a week. All undergraduate students, as well as graduate and professional students living in high-density dormitory housing, will continue to be tested twice a week.

Other faculty, staff and graduate and professional students continue to be eligible for regular testing and are strongly encouraged to participate in voluntary testing up to twice weekly, stated the guidelines.

Students leaving campus prior to Thanksgiving are strongly encouraged to receive a negative test result no more than 72 hours prior to their departure, and any staff and faculty who plan to travel are also encouraged to get tested and receive a negative result prior to departure.

Varsity athletics must remain also remain in Phase I, meaning students are limited “to socially distant conditioning and strength training activities, through the remainder of the semester,” said the university.

Strobel and Spangler noted New Haven has already been designated a “red alert” community, where new cases exceed a two-week daily average of 15 per 100,000 residents.

“Our goal is to complete the fall semester safely while preserving the academic mission of the university,” they wrote. “There are just a few weeks left in the residential portion of this semester. Let’s continue our efforts as we complete the semester, recognizing that our collective actions will impact the health and well-being of our entire community.”

Amanda Blanco can be reached at ablanco@courant.com.

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